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19 June 2012

Lotus Racing last weekend

LMP1 – Le Mans 24 Hours

Lotus-Rebellion finished fourth overall at Le Mans and were the only team to break Audi’s domination. The #12 car was also the first-placed petrol-engined machine. Both cars entered reached the finish line, and took first and third place in the LMP1 Privateer FIA WEC category. The team has extended its lead in the LMP1 Privateer championship.

The #12 Toyota-powered Lotus-Rebellion driven by Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost and #13 sister car driven by Andrea Belicchi, Harold Primat and Jeroen Bleekemolen were never out the top 8 (including the six Audi and Toyota factory cars) during the first four hours of the race. With mechanical and traffic issues for the factory cars, the two black and gold livered prototypes were strongly positioned in the top six from the sixth hour.

After the early retirement of both factory Toyota Hybrids, Lotus-Rebellion was the only team to break the Audi stranglehold with car #12 running fourth from the seventh hour. The night proved trouble-free, and #12 broke through the dawn still in fourth and resisting pressure from the #3 Audi R18 Ultra. The sister Rebellion was starting to have clutch issues and, with just five hours to go, was pushed into the pits for 37 minutes while the crew took apart the rear of the car and gearbox to replace the clutch. The car emerged P11 overall. The final two hours were intense for the Swiss team. The #13 car pushed its way up to the Privateer Trophy podium. Meanwhile, Audi were hunting down a perfect top four lock-out at the front, and the Lotus-Rebellion was in the way. Neel Jani responded by setting lap times even quicker than qualifying, and then handed over to local favourite Nicolas Prost who took the chequered flag, maintaining the team’s hard-fought fourth-place.

Bart Hayden, team manager: “To secure fourth place overall at the Le Mans 24 Hours among Audi factory cars is just reward for the immense effort, contribution, dedication and determination of each and every member of our team. I am deeply proud of what we have achieved as a team. As announced before the season our aim was to repeat our 2011 result at Le Mans and win the FIA WEC Trophy for best Privateer. We are now in a good position to secure both of them after this Le Mans result.”

LMP2 – Le Mans 24 Hours

Lotus suffered a terminal gearbox failure half way through the Le Mans 24 Hours, and despite the crew’s best efforts were unable to return to the race. Until then the car had been running soundly in 14th class position. Thomas Holzer had put the car 17th on the grid after an engine failure in the second of three qualifying sessions. The team climbed three places from there in the race, Holzer handing over to Mirco Schultis who in turn passed the baton to team-mate Luca Moro, who was lapping the circuit when a long safety car period was prompted by Anthony Davidson’s dramatic accident. The team used this opportunity for a small pit stop service but, as night fell, the gearbox gremlins crept in and Lotus’s participation in this 80th edition of the 24 Hours was over.

IndyCar – Milwaukee Indyfest

IndyCars don’t race in the wet, so the Milwaukee Indyfest faced a 90 minute delay as scattered showers left the crews huddling in the pits. But, at 2:02pm and in muggy 83 degree conditions, the racing finally got underway. With the rain washing off the track rubber from earlier, all the Indy Cars were looking at a green track that would be eating up the tyres much quicker than expected. After 60 laps, Simona De Silvestro (#78 – Lotus HVM Racing) had moved up one position, and while trying to manage the tyres, she was heard repeating many times over the radio: “The car is loose!”

A few laps later, Simona pitted. The Lotus HVM Racing team gave her a new set of tyres and she rejoined the field. On Lap 67, the Lotus driver got into the marbles, spun and brushed the wall in Turn 3. This brought out the first caution flag, and put her in 24th position. She was taken to the medical centre, checked and released. De Silvestro has been cleared to drive in the upcoming race next week.

Simona de Silvestro: “It was my fault. TK [Tony Kanaan] passed me and Oriol [Servia] tried to tuck behind him, and I just got in the marbles. It's just unfortunate. Sometimes you make mistakes; that's what happens. There were lots of marbles out there, and I wasn’t much off-line either. I guess I need to learn from my mistake here, and move on.”

Claudio Berro, director of Lotus Racing: “Lotus had a strong presence at Le Mans this year with two teams and three cars, spanning both LMP1 and LMP2. Lotus-Rebellion’s result is the best we could have possibly hoped for; best of the privateers and the only team to spoil Audi’s perfect day. Well done to our LMP2 crew too who showed true fighting spirit and were gutted to be out of the race by halfway due to gearbox issues.”